ESN wanted its own building in the city centre so it could serve as a meeting place for internationals and a location from which to organise activities. It would also give ESN sufficient space to hold meetings, and would make them less dependent on external partners.
ESN is currently housed in the Pelsterpand, where six people occupy a single office space and they have to share the front desk with the KEI week organisers. The board feels this situation holds them back when it comes to realising an international and inclusive university.
But the board of directors has denied ESN’s request. Jan de Jeu, vice-president of the board: ‘The university does not fund housing for student associations. We’d love to help them, but finding permanent housing is their own responsibility.’
The RUG board would like it if ESN shared space with others, rather than move into a building that wouldn’t always be occupied. On top of that, there is very little space in the existing university buildings in the city centre.
The board would like to offer ESN more space, by having them join the larger associations at the Healthy Ageing Campus, for example. The facilities, which include a bar, a reception area, and a common room, would be shared with USVA and the ACLO.
Another option would be to get additional subsidies. This would allow ESN to organise larger events to attract international students and put them into contact with Dutch students. ESN is considering organising a fun fair, a market, or a parade.
The Student Organisation Groningen (SOG) is disappointed by the RUG board’s position. ‘If everyone is talking about how important inclusion is, they should also be willing to spend money on it. Without the university, there wouldn’t have been this many international students in the first place. The university should own up to its responsibilities’, says faction chair Zeger Glas.
SOG member Simon Simeonov feels the two options the board offered aren’t enough. ‘These scenarios just don’t reach far enough. Internationals are an important part of the university, and there is such a divide between them and the Dutch students. Small steps are no longer sufficient.’
Nevertheless, a work group is figuring out the options of a shared property and more subsidising. Adiëlla Boot, ESN Groningen’s chairperson, has faith that they’ll come up with a good result. ‘So far we’ve been happy with the current developments and the work group, which functions well.’